He questioned the approach of asking people to self-isolate at home, saying it was too easy to breach the requirement, and pointed to the Hong Kong government’s approach of quarantining returned students in a convention centre near the airport, saying: “That’s real isolation.”
Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally on Saturday demanded the government act to ensure that people self-isolating at home could secure deliveries of food, medicines and essential items, to prevent them from going to the shops while infected.
“What is happening now is that people who are in self-isolation who cannot access home delivery groceries are being directed to Food Bank,” Senator Keneally said.
“That is a completely unacceptable way to address this gap.”
She said the government should consider following New Zealand’s lead in conducting “spot checks at backpacker hostels” and other enforcement measures in relation to temporary visa holders.
“It’s incredibly important that everyone in the community, citizen or not, complies with the health directions that we are getting,” Senator Keneally said.
The comments came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday warned Australians they “must comply” with self-isolation requirements.
Health Minister Greg Hunt on Saturday blasted the crowds who flocked to Bondi beach on Friday for “putting others at risk” and warned the federal government would resort to lockdowns if the behaviour continued.
“What happened in Bondi was unacceptable,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Melbourne.
The minister said the government “will not hesitate, either through the states or through the Commonwealth”, to ensure sure that the ban on outdoor gatherings of 500 or more people, and the limit of one person per four square metres indoors, was enforced.
In the 24 hours to Saturday afternoon, the number of cases in NSW surged by 83 people, the largest one-day jump to date, bringing the state’s total to 436.
Labor’s health spokesman Chris Bowen said it was “very worrying” that “people across the country are exhibiting symptoms” but were “being denied tests because they don’t meet the criteria”.
Mr Hunt said 115,000 coronavirus tests had been performed, with 99 per cent of them negative, and that 97,000 more were on their way.
The government has also handed $2.6 million to Doherty Institute in Melbourne, which is developing a blood test for coronavirus.
“That will mean more tests for more Australians more rapidly,” Mr Hunt said.
The NSW health department has abandoned Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s planned elective surgery blitz, with the state’s hospitals instead reducing the number of non-essential surgeries – while bringing forward only the most urgent cases – as administrators prepare for a coronavirus surge.
A spokesman said the department was “moving to an increased level of preparedness” as the coronavirus spread, and was building intensive-care capacity across the state.
NDIS minister Stuart Robert announced on Saturday that the government would give financial assistance to providers to support retention of workers including advance payments, 10 per cent COVID-19 loading on some supports and changes to cancellation policies.
Criminal law experts have called for Australian governments to release elderly, young and minor offenders from prisons and detention centres to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak.
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.